Scenic byway proposed for Northwoods highway

A section highway 55 could be the state's next scenic byway
A section highway 55 could be the state's next scenic byway

MOLE LAKE - A Northwoods roadway could be the state's next scenic byway. It's the section of State Highway 55, that runs through Langlade County, north through Forest County, to the Wisconsin-Michigan state line.

A meeting held this week in Mole Lake gave the public an update on the progress.

The proposed Wolf River-Nicolet Scenic Byway would stretch about 130 miles. One of the first stops along the way could be Joe's Place in Lily.

"If people know that there is a travel way to go, to have recreation, that they look for or just even a scenic drive that they'd be willing to travel," said Floyd "Joe" Spice, Joe's Place Owner.

The idea of a scenic byway in the area has been about a decade in-the-making.

People got an update on the two-part project at an informational meeting Wednesday at the Mole Lake Casino Convention Center.

The Department of Transportation already approved the scenic assessment.

"I think the simple reason this one stands out is more natural," said Dennis Leong, Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Dennis Leong says a corridor management plan is next.

"These are at least 30 miles. We try to promote that as a place to come to, as a destination unto itself," said Leong.

It's a destination local leaders say would help the area's tourism economy.

A FOX 11 Fact Check revealed in 2012, Forest County generated $11.5 million in direct business spending. Langlade County generated $43.3 million. Those numbers pale compared to spending in neighboring counties.

Local leaders say the scenic byway is a natural choice.

"A lot of dollars go into those shiny, flashy, whistle and buzzer kind of experiences. We're really hoping to take advantage of what we have, and find those people who would like to experience something a little different," said R.T. Krueger, Forest County Economic Development Partnership President.

And all you really need, is a vehicle.

"You and your kids, mom and dad, grandpa and grandma can have a great time driving and traveling, and shopping and eating," said Richard Ackley, Jr., UW-Extension.

Maybe eating at Joe's.

"I got a Joe-Joe burger that I serve here," said Spice.

Spice says he may even run a special to go with the new highway.

"We could come up with some type of additional basket, or some type of special serve, that would kind of compliment that," said Spice.

The Department of Transportation needs to approve the byway. Officials say it could be six months to a year before the process is complete.